Race the Sun review

Jose Cardoso September 20, 2013 - 5:00 pm

Though Air Boosts can be triggered, it’s often that a choice must be made between the two. Are you willing to give your undistracted opponent the edge as you take to the skies, or do you skip out on elevation to instead have your foe rise momentarily and thus delay its fall? Only being permitted split-second decision-making, these are questions you’ll consider constantly.

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The game world doesn’t glisten with side attractions, so if you’re distracted, it’s because of a frontal oversight. But more specifically, speed is often the cause for concluded sessions. Because it’s a blistering progression that unfolds, it’s not an unusual failure to not account for sudden debris or a foreign structure – in which case, Emergency Portals let you continue your run, if only for a bit longer.

Don’t go burning that Arwing

The deeper you get, the more surprised you are by how vicious things become, though often repeats of before-seen traps in more congested arrangement. Fixtures like tunnels and mountains attempt to repel the sun’s rays as much as possible. Airborne tiles create a temporary second layer to glide across. Rolling rocks protrude from the ends of multiple bar-shaped sockets, trapping you unless a boost is maintained. Saucers launch projectiles similar to what you’d see in Missile Command, emitting blinding fields when crossed – not long-lasting, but still virtually impossible to recover from unless you luck out with a clear straightaway. Two enormous blocks will converge, creating what I call the “Berlin Wall effect” with only a very thin path to pass through.

Even so, being unmonitored in layout, the regenerative nature of the simulation can make trouble for even the most skilled pilots. Examples being, rectangles that immediately fall as you enter a new space and two rectangles on either side of a barrier dropping without even a sliver of an opening.

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Speaking of surprises, your bird companion who leaves bonuses prior to entering new regions (Race the Sun’s ROB 64) is also known to drop solid blocks now and again, making me believe he’s been in cahoots with Mr. Sun from the start.

After you’ve proved yourself worthy, you’ll gain access to portals, and these come in two forms. The first set leads to outer space – a bonus round of sorts – and while it may seem horribly unfair to compare these to Star Fox 64’s warp sequences, those were stunning in their own right. These are simply dominated by negative space with few discerning features.

The second set consists of shortcut portals that appear out on the course to speed up the level flow, but the game has removed much of the struggle (and thereby, semblances of discretion) out of it. Too often, it’s not even that they’re spread out; multiple are found further out along the same line, in case you missed the first and the second, feeling less of a privilege for high-class pilots and more of an apology.

And then, the Sun fell

Designed to be a daily affair, the lack of noise and unique sights in an extended sense does lessen one’s motivation over time. Moreover, the lustre of its polygonal, cold-in-temperature atmosphere does wear off unless you can consistently travel beyond the first few regions and witness the more interesting shades of alley-like line-ups of shapes, families of large cubes that move in unison, and assorted domino effects that demand quick reactions.

The pace of the game ensures that you won’t resist without having first played for hours, hooked on the combination of the rapid pace and the thought of seeing what other directions the game takes. And certainly, this is something the soundtrack enforces, with the third region’s sound being especially climactic, if also a bit anticlimactic in the sense that following regions revert back to a quiet, mid-mood playlist.

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Race the Sun’s composure isn’t incorruptible, for there does come a moment when the excitement will flee and indifference will set in. Through the more gruelling and unforgiving Apocalypse Mode, you can still find much to be stimulated by – a steady stream of Boosters is essential here, as is making no contact with obstacles so as to not find the Sun plummeting within seconds. The leaderboard attachment does help it thrive better, and being able to share results and have others join in where you left off is a nifty touch.

In its current form, while incredibly easy to get into after the brief learning curve, there is a loss in altitude not circumvented by the samey level designs, which hurts the game’s longevity even with the promise of new challenges and user-generated worlds. It’s as you knew all along – the Sun rests easy knowing it’s unconquerable, while the pursuers, recognizing they had little backing from the start, surrender their insistent pursuit. Except, they emerge from the simulation relaxed and mildly energized.

Race the Sun, by Flippfy, is out now for PC and Mac (reviewed).

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